US & Canada

Les Moonves resigns from CBS after sexual misconduct allegations

Les Moonves Image copyright AFP
Image caption Les Moonves is one of the most powerful men in US media

The head of US media giant CBS, Les Moonves, has resigned with immediate effect following allegations of sexual misconduct.

CBS had been investigating Mr Moonves since allegations appeared in the New Yorker in July - and fresh accusations from six more women appeared on Sunday.

Mr Moonves, 68, denies the allegations, calling the latest "appalling".

In a statement CBS said a $20m (£15.4m) would be paid immediately in support of the #MeToo movement.

It said one or more organisations that supported #MeToo and female workplace equality stood to benefit, but did not specify which.

The donation has been deducted from any severance benefits that may be due to Mr Moonves - the amount of which is pending the results of an ongoing independent investigation into his conduct.

What are the latest allegations?

They appear in a new article in the New Yorker by Ronan Farrow, who also authored the July piece and this year shared a Pulitzer Prize for detailing assault accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The allegations have sparked a campaign for the removal of Mr Moonves

The six women in the latest piece allege sexual harassment or assault by Mr Moonves between the 1980s and the first decade of this century.

Some allege he forced them to perform oral sex or exposed himself without their consent.

Some say he damaged their careers when they rebuffed him.

TV executive Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb and writer Jessica Pallingston are two of the women who give graphic descriptions of the misconduct they accuse Mr Moonves of carrying out.

Where does this leave CBS?

Under Mr Moonves' leadership, CBS has been the most-watched network in the US. He developed hits like CSI and The Big Bang Theory, while his $69.3m (£53m) earnings in 2017 made him one of the highest paid chief executives in the world.

His tenure at the top of CBS, which he joined in 1995, has been marked by a power struggle with Shari Redstone who, through her family's business National Amusements, is the controlling shareholder in both CBS and the media conglomerate, Viacom.

Ms Redstone and Mr Moonves had been engaged in a court battle as he tried to thwart her plan to merge CBS and Viacom.

But the announcement of Mr Moonves' departure came at the same time as CBS said it was ending legal action against National Amusements. For its part, National Amusements said it would not seek a merger between the two companies for the next two years.

In a statement it announced that Mr Moonves would step down as chairman, president and CEO with immediate effect.

Joseph Ianniello will serve as president and acting CEO.

The Financial Times said Mr Moonves was resigning because this would entitle him to a hefty severance package, including stock options.

US media said the resignation package for Mr Moonves could amount to $100m.

However, CBS said he would not receive any severance benefits until the result of an independent investigation into him.

In a separate move, six directors have stepped down and six new ones have been elected.

Mr Moonves issued a statement on Sunday saying: "Untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me that are not consistent with who I am."

How has Mr Moonves responded?

The New Yorker quoted a statement in which he says: "The appalling accusations in this article are untrue. What is true is that I had consensual relations with three of the women some 25 years ago before I came to CBS.

"And I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women. In my 40 years of work, I have never before heard of such disturbing accusations."

A further six women also accused Mr Moonves earlier this year. All of them said they believed their careers had suffered because they rejected his advances.

At the time Mr Moonves said he "may have made some women uncomfortable" in the past, adding: "Those were mistakes, and I regret them immensely. But I always understood and respected... that 'no' means 'no'.

How did CBS News cover it?

On Monday, CBS This Morning presenter Norah O'Donnell told viewers that "he's my boss - or he was my boss - and that makes it hard to comment on it".

She discussed her conversation over the weekend with co-host Gayle King about how it had been less than a year since their fellow CBS presenter, Charlie Rose, resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations against him.

She then turned to the camera and said: "There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systemic and it is pervasive in our culture."

"And this I know this is true to the core of my being: Women cannot achieve equality in the workplace or society until there is a reckoning and a taking of responsibility."

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